John Kiernan vividly remembers George Bush’s “read my lips” speech on his commitment to not raise taxes at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans.
It’s just one of a many memories that Kiernan, one of the executive leaders of the Nassau County Republican Committee, carries with him as he heads to this year’s convention - his eighth - in Tampa, Fla. next week.
Kiernan, former Town of North Hempstead supervisor and Williston Park resident, will be joined in Tampa by Lee Tu, the second delegate going to the Republican confab from the Town of North Hempstead. Both men got their tickets punched to Tampa by being members of Romney’s delegate slate in the June primary in New York.
For Tu, an Albertson resident who unsuccessfully ran for supervisor in the Town of North Hempstead, this will be his first time attending a national party convention and he’s thoroughly looking forward to the experience.
Eric Zausner, executive leader of the Port Washington Republican Club, and Linda Green, also a member of Port Washington Republican Club, are the alternate delegates to the Republican convention from the Town of North Hempstead.
All of the attendees said they were looking forward to the convention.
“I’m super excited about it. I’m interested to meet other people from other parts of the country to see how they feel and to see how things are in other parts of the country,” said Tu, who unsuccessfully challenged Jon Kaiman last year in a race for Town of North Hempstead supervisor.
As a certified public accountant, Tu said is keenly interested to learn more about the opinions of Rep. Paul Ryan, who is Gov. Mitt Romeny’s choice for vice presidential running mate.
“I’m curious to get to know what Ryan stands for. You hear about how he’s the budget guru. I’m curious to see what he really stands for in person,” Tu said.
Tu said he thinks Ryan’s presence on the ticket provides a framework for Romney’s message in the coming campaign.
“I think it defines his message a little bit. His focus is going to be on the economy,” Tu said. “I think that’s something that’s on everybody’s mind.”
I think it’s a great event and its’ really a way for everybody to come together and rally behind Gov. Romney and his message going into the election season this fall,” Zausner said.
Zausner echoed Tu’s sentiments about the convention being a chance to gain a perspective from Republicans from other regions.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet other people from across the country and just hear the way they do things out there,” Zausner said.
Kiernan said that based on his previous experience he expects the convention to be both enlightening and entertaining.
“There’s been some really fun times over the years,” Kiernan said.
Those include Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “girly man” speech as California governor at the 2004 Republican convention in New York.
And there was the time when former Pennsylvania Lindsay Graham gave Kiernan a cab he’d just flagged down at the Philadelphia convention in 2000, hoping for some tangible good will in return.
“I’m running for Senate in 2002. I’m going to need New York money. You take the cab,” he said Graham told him.
In New Orleans, he said the New York delegation had “the worst hotel” and he recalled watching former Sen. Alphonse D’Amato walk into the lobby and immediately make a U-turn to find better digs.
Far removed from the days of contentious floor fights, Kiernan said contemporary national conventions are opportunities to press the flesh and catch up with political acquaintances and make new ones.
“Mostly it’s just connecting with political friends across the state and in other states as well. It’s just a chance to reach and make friends and get ready for the campaign that starts in earnest right after Labor Day,” Kiernan said.
He said he is looking forward to hearing what Romney and Ryan have to say in their speeches at the convention. And he said he’s pleased with Romney’s choice for vice president.
“Ryan is very strong on the economy and that’s going to be a major component of the campaign,” Kiernan said. “The fact that he’s 42, besides the Republican base he appeals to young professionals.”
He said he thinks Ryan gives strength to the party’s chances in Wisconsin and gives the ticket a chance to win it.